Showing posts with label Museum of the Order of Saint John. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Museum of the Order of Saint John. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Museum of the Order of Saint John

I met with a friend to visit the Museum of the Order of Saint John. It was her idea as the museum wasn't really on my radar. She writes for Chetham's Library blog which you can read here.

I didn't really know what to expect, I'm not good on medieval history. I expected knights, but whilst there it dawned on me, that, aside from knowing them as playmobil characters and as dressing up costumes, I didn't really know what a knight or an order was.  

There are clues, you can tell that there were men and they fought battles,

 protected by helmets, shields and chain mail armour.

Obviously not offering complete protection.

But their remit went beyond fighting and protecting, to serving the sick and the poor.
In the 11th century in Jerusalem, Hospitallers, "cared for anyone without distinction of race or faith". From this was born the Order of Saint John and their military arm became the Knights of the Order of Saint John.

Caring for the sick, they stored their medicine in pharmacy jars.

And this looks suspiciously like a bed pan, or perhaps bed warmer.
I forgot to check the label.

These silver platters give us a hint to the Order's rules and values, that the sick were to be, "regarded as if they were Christ, and deserved the utmost respect". Another reason may have been that silver was easy to keep clean and has natural antibacterial properties. 

In the 12th century the order left Jerusalem, sailing across the Mediterranean Sea to Rhodes and Malta to continue their quest to provide food, shelter and safety for travellers.

The badge that you probably recognise from the St John Ambulance, has been their badge for centuries. It has been imprinted onto bread,

and has decorated breastplates and habits.

It wasn't all men. This is Saint Ubaldesca from Pisa. 

I was gradually beginning to understand what this religious military order did, and their place in history. But it wasn't until eating breakfast the next day, perusing the gumpf I had picked up in reception, reading the St John's Trail written for kids, that I really got it. Well the version you've just read above.

I still may well be wrong and there is a lot more to this story, including peregrines, prayer books, canon balls, and door knockers. And their 12th century English headquarters, the Priory of Saint John in Clerkenwell, London, the site of this museum.
Visit the Museum of the Order of Saint John and see it all for yourself.

Still a bit confused? There's more to help kids (and adults) understand.
Like their 'Family Activity Chest'.

Unfortunately we didn't have any kids with us this time.

Check out the Museum of the Order of Saint John in Clerkenwell, London.
Open Monday -Saturday, details on their website here.

As you can probably guess, this story continues on until the 20th century with the St John Ambulance. More on that story in a later blog post.
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